“Deyo, don’t go too far the field way too big for me to come look for you to come eat. When I call you, you must come. Now give me a kiss.”
“Yes mummy Nyina now let me go,” Deyo replied and ran to his neighbour’s house.
The sun burnt deeply into his skin through his ripped pale blue T-shirt worn by all five of his older siblings before him. His charcoal-black hair was patchy and unkempt. His once black shorts were faded to a light grey and were covered in holes. The shreds at the knees rested three inches above his bony ankles.
“Kibwu! Kibwu! Come on let’s go play in the field!” shouted Deyo through the small rusty door. The walls of the hut were like hurdles and the thatch stuck out so that people could sit beneath it in sun or rain.
There were no windows, just a house with a single room. In its midst burned a fire which had never suffered to go out. It was not only a light in darkness but also a servant, a companion, and a guardian angel.
“I’m coming!” yelled Kibwu, his shrill voice cutting through the dense air.
His bare head (with peeling pink skin dried up by the searing heat) popped out through the open door.
“Wait! Wait! Don’t leave me!” shouted Kibwu. As he ran to catch up to Deyo, his bony, fragile legs shook and his grey ragged shorts hung loosely above his knees.
“Master, what would you like to drink?” said the house lady as she stood there with her long, white garment resting above her ankles, bringing out her dark complexion.
“I’ll have some tea”, replied Harrison in his British accent as he sat on the stretched sofa with his legs up on the brown glossed coffee table. The searing heat turned his pale white skin pink.
“I remember the first time when I read about Cyprien Ntaryamira in The Times. He has become a powerful man who shows great leadership of Burundi. I have the honour of meeting him next week at the conference in Kalgali. Isn’t that great?” said Harrison excitedly. The house lady had just returned to the livingroom holding a sliver-plated tray with tea made for her master.
“Yes, sah, it is,” she replied softly. She did not quite understand what her master was implying.
Under the scalding sun, the ground cracked; the crops became shrivelled, and the dry dirt filled the air with dust. The putrid smell of rot and decayed animal corpses wove its way menacingly through this dust. The field was no longer a field but now an empty wasteland, with all vegetation lost. Every day had become a season of emptiness.
“We cannot be long. My mumma is making food,” uttered Kibwu.
“What’s past the field? Don’t you wonder why no one let’s us go there?” Deyo curiously speculated.
“We cannot go there! Aunty told you not to go far.”
“I’m going to see…she won’t know kutamenya. We can pluck the legs and wings off nsenene like what we use to do.”
For an uncertain moment, neither of them knew what to do, whether they should go or not.
“I’m going back,” Kibwu finally said, walking away from Deyo towards the village. Deyo made no attempt to stop him.
Hours went past, the sun became hotter; the air became thicker with dust. The end of the wasteland became further away as time went by.
As Deyo looked into the distance, his vision became scattered. “I’m not going to give up…I can see the end, or is the world playing tricks on me? That lake was not there a minute ago, or that tree,” he thought to himself.
His feet dragged across the bare ground; his sweat trickled down his dark brown skin while his stomach cried out for food. The jet-black crows circled above the fading blue sky, breaking the silence with their squawking.
The evening sky began to fall; darkness was drawing upon the field. The slap-slap noise of his slippers echoed throughout the empty field.
Deyo muttered to himself, “Mother is going to kill me…I’ll tell her I got lost…no, I’ll say I helped a dying bird and God gave me a blessing for it…she can’t be mad.” He tried to talk himself out of it, but he couldn’t help worrying about what his mother was going to say and how much trouble he was going to get into.
He began to walk slowly back to his village, constructing more excuses yet afraid that Kibwu had already told her and she was out looking for him.
“…Mamma will forgive me.” Breaking the approaching darkness was an orange glow.
“What is that? Are they starting the Umushagiriro dance without me?” Continuously questioning himself he began to run home with the energy he had left.
‘The Rwandan president and the Burundian president have been assassinated…’
“Turn the volume up!” Harrison demanded as his jaw dropped in reaction to the shocking news broadcasted on his television.
‘…The plane carrying the Presidents’ was shot down when returning from a meeting of African leaders at 9.30 in the evening local time when a loud explosion was heard…’
“Turn it over to the BBC!” He screamed to his maid in disbelief.
The BBC reporter was standing outside the scene of the Presidential Palace, with militants holding the local back from entering the burning building.
‘A surface air missile struck one of the wings of the Dassault Falcon, before a second missile hit the tail. The plane erupted into flames in mid-air above the capital Kigali before crashing into the garden of the Presidential Palace, exploding on impact. There is now confusion about whom to blame for the missile fire. With the government in disarray, the killing of the Tutsis has begun.’
“This cannot be true. Check the other local broadcasts!”
‘…Organised gangs of government soldiers and militias are hacking their way through the Tutsi population with machetes, or blowing them up in churches where they have been taking refuge.’
The cry of people’s voices filled the air; the squawking of crows followed him, bringing forth a shadow of darkness. The village was covered with a blanket of grey smoke. Fires burnt all over, destroying people’s homes while they screamed helplessly. Fear was spreading across the land, creating a wretched place of solitude.
Deyo stood there. His legs became paralysed. His mind became empty.
“DEYO! DEYO!” cried Kibwu, lying face down on the ground.
“Kib…Kib…wu, wha what happened? Where’s Mumma?” stuttered Deyo.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Kibwu pointed to his left, where a woman lay turned over to her side. The pool of blood forming around her, seeping out the open wounds on her chest and legs, stained her white dress.
“Mumma! Mumma!” Deyo screamed, running to the body.
He felt a dumb pain in his foot and in a second his face was plastered against the arid ground.
Suffocated by his tears, he slowly reached out for his mother’s hand, which was stained with the wetness of her blood. He wanted her to comfort him: “It’ll be okay.” But these words remained unsaid; all that was left was the human-shaped emptiness inside him.
A moment later he felt a powerful tug on his clothes pulling him up off the ground, holding him up, so his feet hung helplessly. As he opened his eyes, he saw a long heavy-bladed knife stained with a dark satin red liquid, dripping with the bloodshed of greed and innocence.
Grab my keys!” Harrison ordered then snatching it from the house lady.
“Where are you going, sah?”
“To the Embassy!” he yelled while rushing out through the door. The searing heat turned his pale white skin to pink and his grey T-shirt covered in traces of sweat.
Driving towards the British embassy was an impossible journey. The roads were jam packed with people in panic. The locals were fleeing, bags loaded on top of cars, houses in lock down, windows boarded up, children in doors, and women crying; it was all too much.
As Harrison reached the embassy, he ran in, slamming the high gold plated door and running to the receptionist.
“Give me the phone, Helen. It’s important.”
“Harrison…what are you doing back?”
“Don’t play so naive. Have you seen what is going on out there?” he firmly asked.
“What’s going on here?” asked the commissioner, who had just entered the room.
“Sir, we need to contact the Prime Minister. Have you seen what is happening beyond those doors – hell!” he urgently responded to his boss.
“Put the phone down! You know we cannot involve Britain in this country’s democracy.”
“This is not a democracy; this is a massacre! We must have global vigilance.”
“The military will get hold of this situation; it’ll be over before you know it. There is no need to involve our country, it’ll make things worse… go home and be safe.” Harrison’s boss sounded calm as he took the phone back from Harrison, placing it back on the receiver..
“They deserve to know!” Harrison slammed his fist on the table.
“Listen here, Harrison. I make the decisions; I decide what happens. NOW GO HOME!” demanded the commissioner.
Feeling helpless, he returned home. As he walked in, the house lady greeted him with a moral meaning to the killings.
“Master, in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”